SCI/SCIF has a long history of supporting the men and women serving in our country’s armed services.
The first SCI-sponsored event was called “Operation Freedom Safari”. It began with a discussion between Eric Sparks – now a commissioner with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, outdoor television personality Jim Zumbo and SCI’s Editor-in-Chief Steve Comus.
Sparks commented that hunters needed to do something to help and honor the veterans and that he would donate an African safari on his ranch in Botswana. SCI auctioned off two spots on the hunt.
It was the first official African hunt contributed to American combat veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hosted on the successful Operation Freedom Safari was former U.S. Army Sgt. Joe Tormala of Michigan.
The hunt was filmed and shown on The Outdoor Channel, resulting in other organizations and interests following suit by offering hunting adventures to veterans.
SCI support for America’s heros has come in many forms since Operation Freedom Safari in 2006.
Two SCIF Veterans Committee Members and two honored guests participated in a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery May 8, 2019. The Veterans Committee makes it a priority to honor soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice by participating in a wreath ceremony on an annual basis when possible.
SCI was a title cosponsor of the Rivers of Recovery annual BBQ and Fish Fry fundraiser in Washington DC on November 13th, 2019. The event was well attended by partner organizations and several members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, including Senators John Boozman and Joe Manchin and Representative Jeff Duncan.
Rivers of Recovery is a national nonproﬁt organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), minor Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), stress, anxiety, and depression. Rivers of Recovery is an industry leader providing rehabilitation to physically and psychologically injured U.S. combat veterans using innovative, outdoor-based therapies, most notably fly-fishing.
Many SCI chapters have established initiatives to support America’s veterans. The following are just some of the chapters who have sent a wounded veteran on the hunt of a lifetime.
In 2012, The annual SCI Utah Chapter’s “Hunts for Warriors” and disabled hunters project was a big success. That year also saw the Lake Superior Chapter, Delaware Valley Chapter and the Austin Chapter join together to provide an unforgettable experience at the Dakota Hunting Farms in South Dakota.
Finally, in 2012 the Central Missouri Chapter provided a hunt for a wounded veteran. The chapter refers to the hunts as “Wish Hunts.”
SCI Georgia hosted the first hunt honoring 12 wounded veterans in December 2014. The veterans were sent to hunting clubs via a random drawing. Many of the hunting club members gave up their own hunting time to make sure the veterans had a successful hunt and a memorable experience.
The newly formed SCI Music City Chapter hosted the “Jim Hall Hunts for Warriors,” in December 2015. Fifteen combat wounded soldiers were treated to three days of hunting with a personal guide, prize drawings, food, lodging and just plain ol’ fun and camaraderie. This was the first event held by the new chapter.
According to Steve Jackson, then-President of the newly formed Music City SCI Chapter, “This was one of the most fun-filled and gratifying three days I have had the honor of being a part of.” According to Steve, this in part, was a small way to show appreciation for the warriors’ service to our country.
In 2018, the SCI Alaska Chapter sent disabled veteran Tyler Hall on a safari to Namibia. The chapter newsletter gave several humanitarian reasons for supporting SCI. “When you support SCI, you are giving to a great conservation organization that also gives back to the world community in many ways. Below are a few more examples of AK SCI’s commitment to communities:
-Sportsmen Against Hunger paid for the processing and shipment of over 3500 pounds of game meat to remote villages who had a poor subsistence season, and an additional amount to the Enlisted Man’s Food Pantry on JBER.
-Provides hunting and fishing opportunities every year for hundreds of disabled veterans and members of the armed forces.
The Gateway Area Chapter partnered the National Rifle Association and Winchester in October of 2019 to hold a sporting clays event, “Shoot For The Vets” that raised funds to support veterans activities.
More than 125 shooters participated at the NILO hunting and shooting preserve. Former NRA president, Pete Brownell and Steve Skold, SCI President were guest speakers.
Most of these events, such as the Music City Chapter’s “Jim Hall Hunts for Warriors” have become annual events, as has the annual Veteran’s Breakfast at the 2020 SCI Convention.
Each year SCIF sponsors a hunt that is auctioned off at the annual Veteran’s Breakfast. The auction winner will be the sponsor of the combat veteran chosen from all applications sent in from members across the country.
The 2020 premiere hunt was a Montana Bull Elk Hunt for one Combat Veteran as chosen by the Veterans Committee.
SCI/SCIF and SCI Chapters will continue supporting America’s heros by organizing and donating special once-in-a-lifetime hunts, direct contributions and a host of other activities. Honoring those who have served our country is a priority of Safari Club International.